Chaplin (1992)

I’m just watching Attenborough’s biopic of Charlie Chaplin. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

The first is, of course, a young, impishly handsome Robert Downey Jr. As Chaplin. Now, if you’ve only seen RDJ in his more recent roles, it’s not like he’s got any worse as an actor; he’s tremendously assured and mature. Possibly only one of a handful of actors who could justly be labelled a “star.”

But this is Downey at 27, this is a young, mercurial Downey in the role that got him and Oscars nom for Best Actor.

He is beautiful as Chaplin. And, yes, it’s silly and illogical but part of why I find him so compelling is that I know Downey the man was as complex and often hounded as Chaplin the man. In Downey’s case it was the tabloid media hounding him for his drug abuse and the actuality of  said drug abuse and how it derailed his career. With Chaplin, you have his traumatising childhood of workhouses and extreme poverty, followed by huge success and then being made a target of the FBI and repeatedly smeared and vilified as part of their campaign. 

Around Downey, Attenborough has assembled a wonderful supporting cast including Chaplin’s actual daughter, Geraldine, playing her own grandmother. Dan Ackroyd is a perfect fit as Mack Sennet and look at that suave young cameraman / editor… it’s David Duchovny, a year before The X-Files.

Special mention for a baby-faced Paul Rhys who you might recognise as Vlad from Da Vinci’s Demons or Ivan from Being Human. He plays Charlie’s older bro, Sydney and is perfect. Makes me want to see both of them acting in something now.

If you haven’t seen it, check out Chaplin. And if you have but it’s been a while, give it a re-visit. You won’t regret it!